Advice about postnatal depression please

Sneaky - posted on 09/30/2010 ( 10 moms have responded )




So a friend at work obviously really needed to talk last night and just dumped everything on me - he wants to leave his 23 year old partner of five years and take his one year old son with him because he is just sick and tired of doing everything by himself. Before everyone rushes in to judge him please let me go through the details I know! So his partner obviously has postnatal depression and EVERYONE knows it including her. She is a stay at home mum and she says she feels 'trapped' (even though she has her own car and can go out during the day, she also has her parents and his parents that constantly offer to take the baby for the day and she always says no), she is on disability because of hip dyspepsia (which I know HURTS a lot) and she just recently applied to do early childhood training and was rejected. She has (had?) lots of friends but refuses to go out and see them.

My friend is at his wits end. He keeps asking her to go to the doctor and she says that she 'can't be bothered', he is disgusted by her at times because she can't be bothered showering and brushing her teeth (he has to make her do it), and of course he is doing all the child care for his son, house work and cooking for the three of them with out any help or support from her. Plus he is working at nights. He has talked to her parents about the situation and (seriously, I am NOT making this up!) they told him: 'you are the one with her, it's YOUR problem'.
He told me flat out that he is at his wits end and all he wants to do was take his son and leave her. All I could do was point out that if he left her then either a) she would fall further into depression and possibly become a suicide risk or b) it might be the kick in the pants that she needs to ask for help. Both outcomes he has already considered of course, which is why he is still with her. I am totally at a loss, I want to give him advice but I have none :o(

I have had some mild post natal depression with my last baby (she is just four months old) so I have a slight idea what she is going through and how she is just physically and mentally incapable of operating right now, but my most serious concern if for his baby boy. Do you know how many times I have read on this website that a happy mum = happy baby? Countless and I have even said it myself in some posts. He can't be a happy bub with a dis-attached mother and I can tell you from experience - my mother had severe post natal depression with both me and my brother. I am 33 years old now and I still wonder why she had children at all when we apparently wrecked her life, I feel that is she had loved us she would have gotten help for her mental problems instead of making my live with them and if you want to talk about un-socialized children and teenagers I was one because we never went anywhere - no playgroup, no play dates we were just cooped up at home all day everyday. I was also an 'out-of-control' toddler and a 'holy little terror'. Why? Because my mother stayed in bed or on the couch all day and I could do what ever I wanted without supervision all day.

As I said, I do not want judgments about my friend and his feelings, I do not want judgment about my feelings what I would LOVE is advice about what I can do best to support my friend and potentially help his partner. If anyone out there has had severe postnatal depression can you tell me what was the turning point for you? Is there light at the end of the tunnel for my friend and his family?


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Sneaky - posted on 10/02/2010




Thanks everyone, that does help - I thought I might be over reacting to suggest he take her to hospital but everyone here also thinks it is that serious. I will suggest it (well I will suggest everything suggested here actually) and see how it goes. Thanks again :o)

Renae - posted on 10/01/2010




Ok me again! I was thinking about it further and I thought it might help your friend to understand a little of what is going on inside the mind of a person with severe PND. Someone I know had PND psychosis for a year before she was finally helped. A couple of years later when she was recovered, I asked her to explain to me why people with severe PND dont shower. This is what she said:

Asking her to shower was like asking her to launch a rocket ship. Everything was so difficult and took so much energy. She would go into the bathroom and think "ok so I need to shower, what do I do?, I need to turn the water on, what next? I need to get undressed, no wait, I will need clean clothes to put on after". So she would walk to the bedroom and return with a pair of underwear, "hang on, thats not enough clothes, what else do I need? I will need a shirt". She would go back to the bedroom to get a shirt put when she opened the drawer, there were about 20 shirts to choose from and she didn't know which one to get. When she finally got in the shower she would look at all of the bottles of beauty product and think "what are they for? that one says shampoo, that's for my hair, right? oh and that ones for my body, but what do I do with it again?"

So you see everything she did, every day, was like this. It was a constant state of confusion but at the time she was not able to explain to anyone what was going on. She said that when she tried to bath the baby, she spent an hour trying to work out how to get the water in the bath and then gave up. Now this person is a very intelligent, very experienced paediatric nurse.

With PND psychosis often comes delusion. Again in the case of my friend, when her husband said "I love you but there is something wrong with you and you need to get help or I will have to leave you", she HEARD "I dont love you, there is something wrong with you and I am going to leave you". Which is why threats and ultimatums dont work. Even if she could have understood what he said, she was not capable of the mental process of making a doctors appointment and taking herself.

I just thought this might help your friend to understand that PND is a chemical imbalance, it is not something his wife can help and there are things going on inside her head that he would never imagine.

Hope this helps :)

Renae - posted on 10/01/2010




Of course it is difficult to diagnose without knowing the total story in full, but, it does absolutely sound like she has post natal depression, it actually sounds like it could be at psychosis level (but dont quote me on that, as I said I only know a small piece of the picture here).

I recommend that your friend find out which hospital or centre in his area deals specifically with postnatal depression, pack his wife a bag, demand she get in the car, drive her there and hand her over to them. Particularly the next time she hasn't washed for 3 days so that they can see straight away what is going on. Let's assume she does have PND and it is quite severe. Then your friend needs to understand that this will not just go away, she will not get better, she will not go back to her old self. The most common symptom of PND is self-denial (next to lack of hygiene). Another common occurance with PND is delusion and delusional thoughts, which is why things like interventions usually dont work. This psychosis makes it difficult for the patient to even figure out how to cook dinner, how to bath the baby, how to bath themselves. Your friend probably also finds that when his wife does shower, she takes a very long time, this is because she cant focus on what she is supposed to do or remember the order in which she usually does things.

Your friend needs to find out which community organisations or hospitals deal with PND where you are (in most states there is a hospital with a dedicated PND ward and PND specialist psychologists) and go to them for help. He cannot deal with this on his own.

Julie - posted on 10/01/2010




Wow..poor guy. It is a lot to deal with. She needs more than a good pep talk. she probably has a chemical imbalance that needs to be treated with medication...he needs to take her to a doctor.

Iridescent - posted on 10/01/2010




I can see why he would want to leave. What I'd suggest is he plan ahead, get a sitter for his son for an evening/night, get help, bring his wife into the ER and have her committed to a psych facility until she can be treated and improves. It takes 2 signatures from the community (husband and a close friend) to do this, or 1 doctor signature if the doctor agrees it needs treatment. From there he can decide what to do, but she obviously needs help NOW.

Louise - posted on 10/01/2010




Post natal depression is not something she can deal with on her own. I had post natal depression afte my second son was born where I totally rejected him for the first 24 hours of his life. I spent six weeks trying to hide how depressed I was and would frequently go to the toilet to sob. I suppose it was realising I had a problem that was the turning point for me. I went to the doctors and was councilled and worked my way through it. If this woman will not go to the doctors then your friend is stuffed. All he can do is sit her down and tell her how concerned and exhausted he is with dealing with this. If she still does not take on board what he is saying then maybe saying to her that he is going to leave if she does not get help will be enough of a kick up the butt that she needs. That is of course if he still loves her enough to stay and work this through. If he has fallen out of love with her then may be he should seek advice from a solicitor.

Kelina - posted on 09/30/2010




Does she go out when she's with him? Maybe you could suggest getting him to take the two of them for a walk to the park or something to talk to her. I was suffering some pretty bad depression last winter and I wouldn't have gone to the doctor on my own. Some nights my son was the only thing keeping me alive and i can tell you despite the fact that I knew something was wrong, I couldn't bring myself to go to the doctor for myself. I did because my husband told me he was so worried about me. It was one of the rare days i had managed to get out of the house, and so when he talked to me he actually managed to get through to me because for the first time in a while i could see past my pain and see his. sunshine=vitamin D and exercise = endorphins, both of which combat depression. If he talks to her while they're out of the house, walking in the sun, it might enable her to see that what she's going through is hurting him and their baby because you're right, happy mom=happy baby. If not, he needs to think about what is best for both him and his son. he's not going to be happy seeing her in pain every day, and that's going to have a big impact on bub. Good luck!

Carolee - posted on 09/30/2010




As a person with severe depression myself, I'd have to say that she NEEDS medication. If she is not willing or able to go to the doctor for the medication (and cannot be trusted to take it daily), then she needs to be hospitalized until she learns how to deal with her feelings. Him leaving will most likely give her an excuse to spiral deeper into the depression until she either starves herself or kills herself quickly. The ultimatum should (IMO) be either she gets on medication or she goes to the hospital (in-patient psych ward).

Firebird - posted on 09/30/2010




He might have to give her an ultimatum I'm afraid. Get help, or I'm leaving. Maybe he could set up an appointment with a therapist for both of them (don't ask her if she wants to go- tell her she's going... kind of like an intervention) and make sure she's ready to go in time to get there. And they can talk about all their problems and get her the help she needs. That's the best I can think of, wish I could say more. Tell your friend good luck for me!

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